A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.
When the representative body have lost the confidence of their constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then indeed their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the state.
Whenever legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience.
To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.
Place me not with those who are weak of mind and willingly give up the rights of others, for these poor ignorant souls know not that the rights they give up are their own1
Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. I would not lead you out if I could; for if you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make up your minds there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves.
There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death. We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory.
One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.
A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.
One of the things that bothers me most is the growing belief in the country that security is more important than freedom. It ain’t.
And reason teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.
It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.
No truly sophisticated proponent of repression would be stupid enough to shatter the facade of democratic institutions.
A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.
Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.
From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor’s rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own.
The people who, in order to enjoy the liberty which suites them, resort to the representative system, must exercise an active and constant surveillance over their representatives, and reserve for themselves...the right to discard them if they betray their trust, and to revoke the powers which them might have abused.
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